Regrets of a Cat Owner
by Carolyn Kylstra
In the summer of 2009, I adopted a kitten from an animal shelter, and it was love. It was also TNT to my savings account! In the not-quite-three years since Hooligan joined my household, the horrible, adorable beast has cost me over $5,500. Itemized, that’s $4,550 in vet- and health-related costs, and around a grand for everything else.
Here’s the thing: I read that thing about expensive dog surgery (is it worth it or not worth it?), and I am firmly in the camp of “not worth it.” In fact, my personal limit has always been that I won’t spend over $2,000 at a time on Hooligan’s vet bills — anything more than that, and the little mongrel is going to go hang out on the proverbial farm. But the $5,500 over the course of three years didn’t happen all at once, and was not something I budgeted for, or thought about. Because sometimes the bills don’t tally up to thousands of dollars in a day. Sometimes they accumulate slowly, in wince-worthy-but-not-bank-breaking increments, and you don’t realize how much you’ve spent until you begin to ask yourself why you haven’t been able to make much headway with that savings account.
During the adoption process in 2009, the shelter lady asked me to estimate how much a person will typically spend on a cat in the first year of pet ownership. I thought about it for a hot minute, and wrote $600. That’s about $30 a month for food, litter and the like (generous, I thought at the time!), plus the initial supplies, and some shots or whatever (vaccines, check-ups, what have you). Cats are cheap and easy, though, right? They’re the low-rent, no-hassle version of dogs.
Sometimes I want to go back to 2009-version of me, and slap her across the face.
What I’m trying to say is, before you get a pet, it’s worth it to genuinely assess whether you can really, actually afford it. Think about it: $5,500 in three years. That averages out to about $150/month. More than a cable/HBO/high-speed Internet bundle! And here you are, using your friend’s Netflix password and the neighbor’s wireless account, trying your darndest to be responsible and save.
In any case: How is this possible, you ask? I’ll tell you! Below, I’ve listed the vet- and health-related bills alone (I’m not going to bore you with the kitty litter and scratching post price quotes. Zzzz). These prices listed are estimates, but they’re good estimates (maybe even on the low side), based on emails I sent my friends at the time of each incident, bemoaning my stupid, sick, wonderful, loving, horrible, horrible cat. The point is: Let this be a warning to you. Pets are expensive as hell, and it’s not just the brain tumors and heart transplants that’ll cost you.
Hooligan’s medical-related expenses: August 2009 — Current
• First-year vet checkup and vaccination rounds: $200
• Ear mites: $50 for meds
• Intestinal worms: $50 for meds
• Vet visit to figure out why his hair was falling out in nasty clumps: $200
• Ringworm: $50 for meds
• Anti-fungal medication for my boyfriend, who got ringworm from the cat: $10
• Neutered: $250
• Emergency vet visit because my roommate thought he had eaten a couple of her Adderall pills (yes, true story, and no, he had not): $200
• Urinary blockage 1: $500 for catheterization
• Urinary blockage 2: $500 for catheterization
• Urinary blockage 3: $1500 for overnight stay and catheterization
• Fancy dancy C/D or S/O prescription-only cat food to prevent future urinary blockages: $40/month x 16 months (and counting!) = $640 (and counting!)
• Vet visit because he was pooping blood: $200 for x-rays and TWO enemas
• Vet visit because he was pooping blood again:$150 to diagnose the problem as “stress”
• Pills for “stress”: $50
As I said, this all adds up to about $4,550 in vet- and health-related bills in just under three years. The remaining grand was spent on travel to and from the vet and/or general cat things, like kitty litter, generic dry cat food, cat bed, scratching post, things like that. Fun fact: $1,000 over 36 months actually comes out to $27/month, which is pretty much what I initially guessed, way back in 2009, when I was predicting how much owning a cat would cost me. Sigh.
Carolyn’s friends always give her cat-themed birthday cards. She lives in Queens and tweets @CarolynKylstra. Hooligan is pictured above.